WILKES-BARRE — The attorney for the Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union said he has “no idea” what federal investigators are focusing on in their probe of the credit union and is complying with a subpoena issued for documents.
Attorney Dominick P. Pannunzio has been working out of the city clerk’s office in City Hall photocopying documents for federal investigators. The first floor office is too cramped with auditors from the National Credit Union Association, the federal agency that regulates credit unions, reviewing the records in light of the criminal investigation.
“To my knowledge there are no funds missing from the credit union,” Pannunzio said Thursday.
He’s heard a lot of talk that the probe is connected to the fuel missing from the city’s storage tanks and LAG Transport Inc., the former towing contractor for the city, but said that he has nothing to show a link.
“I have a subpoena there with a federal number,” he said. “I have no idea (what it involves).”
The attorney said the subpoena listed a number of individuals who are members of the credit union, but he would not identify them.
Pannunzio said he expects to finish the photocopying within two or three days. But there are documents that are archived off site that will prolong his work. “I have no time limit,” he said of completing the job.
Pannunzio wanted to reassure credit union members that their money was safe and that it was business as usual after the death Monday of its longtime manager James Payne.
Payne’s body was found inside a residence in Bear Creek Township Monday afternoon. State police said the death was a suicide. Sean Quinn, the director of the FBI’s Scranton office, said he believes Payne’s perception of the investigation precipitated the tragedy. FBI agents served the subpoena last week and visited the credit union this week.
“We have everything under control,” Pannunzio said. Sister credit unions from the area have volunteered to help out in the interim while the credit union seeks a new manager and chief executive officer. The post will be advertised and one or two board members will review the resumes and decide on the replacement.
The Wilkes-Barre City Employees Federal Credit Union has more than 2,200 members, mainly employees of the city, Wilkes-Barre Area School District and Plains and Wilkes-Barre townships, Pannunzio said. It had more than $41.8 million in assets at the end of last year, and its deposits were federally insured. Although it is located in City Hall, the credit union is not run by the city and rents office space.
Pannunzio said he had no issue with Mayor Tom Leighton being the appraiser for the credit union. “He does good work,” Pannunzio said.
Leighton owns C.A. Leighton Co. Inc., a real estate and insurance business, and is a state-certified residential appraiser. Leighton said there was no conflict of interest with him doing the appraisals for the credit union.
“If they used him more than a couple times that would be a lot,” Pannunzio said.
He added that Leighton also does appraisals for other credit unions.
At Thursday night’s city council meeting there was a moment of silence for Payne.
Council chairman Bill Barrett later tried to limit comments about the credit union.
“I’m going to give you very little latitude on this,” Barrett told Frank Sorick when he brought up the subject during the public comment period of the meeting.
Sorick took issue with what he said were statements by the mayor that the credit union was not related to the city. The mayor is the exclusive appraiser and likely appraising homes for his friends, co-workers and relatives.
“I’m asking this council to please use its investigative authority to find out if there is a said conflict between a credit union whose primary members are the relatives and employees of this city,” Sorick said.
Barrett cautioned him, saying council would not do so until the investigation of the credit union already underway runs its course.
“How about we investigate all of the dealings of this mayor’s office?” Sorick asked.
Barrett cut off Bob Kadluboski as he attempted to bring up the credit union and the wake for Payne.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with this council or this city,” Barrett said.”I’m not going to go there. You go there, you’re out of order.”
And he was as Barrett banged the gavel to silence Kadluboski.
“Out,” Barrett directed Kadluboski to leave council chambers escorted by a police officer.
Kadluboski shouted,” You’ll be out soon enough and I will see you in federal court you little weasel.”